How the Council deals with unauthorised encampments
We know that unauthorised encampments (by members of the travelling community) on either public or private land are a concern for local residents. We understand residents would like them moved on as soon as possible.
However, when these are on public (Council owned) land we have a legal duty to ensure we follow the correct process to move them on.
In some cases it is not necessary to embark on a formal legal process as we can reach an agreement with the travelling community to leave by a certain date.
Unfortunately, in most cases we will need to pursue a process that is defined in law and we follow this as quickly as we can within the legal framework.
To lawfully remove an unauthorised encampment we have to follow the process as set out in Section 77 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 – this is the legal framework we have to work under.
There are several steps, which are summarised below:
- The Council or its representative must carry out a welfare assessment of the travelling community.
- If any welfare issues are identified the Council must provide support to the community to access the necessary welfare services.
Instruction to Leave
- Subject to there being no welfare issues, the Council or its representative must issue the community with an instruction to leave the land.
- The instruction will include a time and date when the community must leave the land by.
- If the community does not leave the land by the time and date identified in the instruction to leave, the Council can apply for a court hearing. At the court hearing the Council will ask for a Court Order to be issued, instructing the community to leave the site.
- The community must be given sufficient notice of the court hearing to enable them to make a representation at the court to contest the case.
- A period of 24 hours is typically given between a Court Summons being served and the court hearing date.
- The Court Summons must be formally served to the community by the Council or its representative.
- Subject to the Magistrate being satisfied that there is a case to remove the community, a Court Order will be granted which notifies the community that they need to leave the land they are occupying.
- The Court Order must be served to the community by the Council or its representative.
- If the community has not left the land within 24 hours following the Court Order being served, the formal eviction process can begin.
Failure to follow this process may lead to a Court Order not being granted, or the risk of a legal challenge being made by the unauthorised encampment.
If either of these situations were to happen it would mean a delay to the process and a delay in being able to move the unauthorised encampment. Therefore it is essential that each step is followed and all necessary evidence is documented to support the process.
Further information can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dealing-with-illegal-and-unauthorised-encampments.